Heroically prolific Hong Kong director Johnnie To has made it his mission to bring the gangster film into the 21st century, even while portaging another century's worth of genre baggage on his back. In Triad Election, the sequel to 2005's Election, To locates a new frontier—the wild west that is the Chinese economy—and sets up a secession parable that incorporates Hong Kong's tentative relationship with its new ruler, dissent and disillusion within the secretive Triad Society, and the ardent desire of one its members (smoldering Louis Koo returns as the MBA-wielding, sharp-dressed Jimmy) to go straight and grab his piece of the legit pie. All that and a hostage's limbs seceding from his torso to be ground into puppy chow! Jimmy's plan to get out by getting back in is the platform for a lot of loaded, roundtable sit-downs and clenched, stagy street fights. To's rangy camera circles its cagey subjects like prey, sometimes drawing in for a close, almost tender framing of his cut-out characters, sometimes yanking back to find them swallowed by the grandeur of both urban and rural China; each angle—and To's take on the plight of the modern gangster—is inspired.
Louis Koo as gangster on the rise.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., June 15. Not rated. 93 minutes.